When the Labour-led Government came into power it said it wanted to be a kinder Government. But looking at the quarterly benefit statistics, you wouldn’t know it. Thousands more people are claiming the benefit and the number of people needing assistance to eat and live is at a record high. That is not kindness – it is hardship.
Under this Government, hardship assistance has increased by $48 million in the past year as Kiwi families are struggling to put food on the table. There were an extra 70,000 requests for assistance for food in the last year alone as Kiwis struggled with the increased cost of living.
It is no wonder that families are struggling to make ends meet as under this Government rents have increased by an average of $50. Under the National-led Government, they went up by $12 a year. This Government’s poor policy decisions have prompted many landlords to sell up and others to increase rents to recover costs.
Increased rents mean that despite the Accommodation Supplement going up last year, more and more New Zealanders are struggling to afford accommodation. Emergency housing grants went up from $6.6 million to $23 million in the space of a year.
Then there’s the number of Kiwis on benefits, which has increased by 13,000 nationwide during the year ended 31 March 2019. In Selwyn there has been a 36% increase in people on the Jobseeker benefit, while in the Ashburton District there has been a 20% increase. It is hard to understand why the number of people on the Jobseeker benefit keeps on increasing with the unemployment rate as low as it is (2.1% in Selwyn and 1.8% in Ashburton) and when employers across the South Island are struggling to find workers to fill vacant positions.
It doesn’t make any sense but the Government seems happy for that number to keep on increasing. The number of sanctions being imposed is down 31% since March 2018. Sanctions should be and always have been a last resort. They are only imposed on someone who repeatedly doesn’t show up for appointments or interviews. But this Government apparently doesn’t think there should be any accountability for taxpayers’ money.
It isn’t kind or compassionate to reduce incentives to work.
We know that some people need short-term assistance to help them get back on their feet after redundancy or other life events. Others need ongoing support due to disability and long-term illness.
However, New Zealanders who are able to are better off working and creating opportunities for themselves and their families. Under the previous Government the trend was for more people moving from a benefit into work and that is what we should be aiming for.
The Prime Minister has pledged to reduce child poverty, but the hardship and special needs grant figures show it is getting tougher for those children living in benefit-dependent households. Where is the plan from this Government to get Kiwis off benefits and into work in order to help give their children a better future?